Author’s Note: This piece has been edited and now appears in “Angel Songs, 20 Christmas Short Stories and Poems, plus Recipes” by Dona Watson. Click here for more info.
The precious innocence of children is an amazing thing. Sometimes it’s exactly what we need to keep us going. Thank God for the little ones and for the magic that is Christmas — the magic that sparkles in their eyes and cheers our hearts.
by D.L. Watson
“No, honey. Not this year.”
The little girl’s brown eyes opened wide as she waited expectantly for an answer. How was Trish to explain to little Amber how her Daddy died? She had tried before, but at four years old, Amber couldn’t completely understand the concept of cancer stealing someone’s life away, bit by bit.
“Because Daddy’s in heaven with Jesus, little one.”
“When will he be back?”
Trish wiped away a tear trickling down her face. It had been less than a year and the wounds in her soul were still so fresh. So deep. “He won’t be back, baby.”
Amber climbed up into her mother’s lap. “Don’t cry, Mommy.” She patted Trish on the cheek with soft little fingers.
Trish wrapped her arms around her daughter and held her tight, breathing in the soft, pleasant smell that was her daughter. It was just the two of them now. After a minute or so, Trish wiped her eyes and kissed the top of the Amber’s head. The little girl looked up, eyes searching her mother’s like they always did when a question was forming in her mind.
“Mommy, what’s it like in heaven?”
The little girl’s question brought to mind an image of her husband Jim walking through the gardens of heaven, singing in his beautiful tenor voice. She could feel the corners of her mouth turn up in a bittersweet half-smile. She opened her mouth to answer, but Amber continued.
“Are there angels in heaven? With Daddy?”
Trish nodded. “Yes, honey. There are.”
“Do they sing together?”
“Probably. I understand the angels sing beautiful songs. Like the one they sang when Jesus was born.”
She looked across the room at their little four-foot Christmas tree, all she could afford since Jim had died. The white lights on the tree reflected off the red glass ornaments and glimmered down softly onto the simple Nativity scene at the base of the tree. Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus under a little open-sided stable.
The four-year-old followed her mother’s gaze to the crèche. “Mommy, if the angels were there with baby Jesus, why don’t we have one with our baby Jesus?”
Trish smiled and shook her head. So many questions. “I couldn’t find the angel, honey. It’s packed away in a box somewhere and I couldn’t find it.”
Suddenly Amber’s eyes lit up and she scrambled down from her mother’s lap and ran to her backpack laying in the chair, dumped there when Trish had brought her daughter home from preschool. Amber wrested the zipper open and reached inside, pulling out a paper angel with a skirt that may have once been cone-shaped.
“Look what I made, Mommy! Now we have an angel!”
Trish brushed silky brown strands of hair out of Amber’s sparkling eyes. “It’s beautiful, Amber! You did a very nice job.”
Amber’s eyes shone with the praise. “Can we put it on the tree? It can look down over the baby Jesus and we can pretend it’s singing.”
Trish nodded. “That’s a wonderful idea.” She reshaped the angel’s skirt and positioned it carefully on top of the tree. “It’s perfect.”
Amber bounced on the balls of her feet and clapped her hands. “Now we have an angel to sing with, just like Daddy.”
With fresh tears misting over her vision, Trish scooped up her daughter and held her tight.
“Yes, we do, baby. Yes we do.”
This story is part of a Writing Challenge I have undertaken to write something every day in the month of December on a pre-selected list of topics. Photographer Jacqueline Ashford is keeping pace with me on the same list of topics, her with a camera and me with a keyboard. You can see Jacqueline’s gorgeous photos here. We’re having way too much fun with this mutual challenge. (You can see the list of topics here.)
Tomorrow’s Topic: Peace